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Theatre review: Cabaret, Liverpool Empire

I'd Do Anything star forgets Nancy and makes Sally her own, according to Vinny Lawrenson Woods

Published on September 25th 2008.

Theatre review: Cabaret, Liverpool Empire

TRANSFORMED into the hedonistic Germany of 1930s it's all showgirls, dancing Nazis and Wayne Sleep in stockings and suspenders at the Empire this week.

Bill Kenwright’s version of Cabaret, immortalised by Liza Minnelli on the big screen, this time features I’d Do Anything finalist Samantha Barks who makes the flirty and vivacious Sally her own, in her professional theatrical debut.

Joe Masteroff's book, brought to life by the songs of John Kander and Fred Ebb, who also wrote Chicago, tells the tale of American Clifford Bradshaw, played by the assured Henry Luxemberg, (Pygmalion) who arrives in Berlin. Looking for inspiration for a new novel, the aspiring author chances across the infamous Kit Kat Klub, and meets the English showgirl Sally.

TV favourite and world renowned dancer Wayne Sleep introduces the backdrop of the story as master of ceremonies Emcee at the Kit Kat Klub. Sleep leads the performance in an enigmatic and devilish way, sporting the strangest outfits and make-up. I couldn’t help but think of Leo Sayer without the hair every time I saw Sleep in a new costume, half expecting the clown one to be next.

The Empire has notices warning the audience there is some nudity in the performance. It wasn’t until a naked man ran on to the stage that I realised they were not referring to Wayne Sleep’s nipples.

The set is simple and inventive, which allows the effortless switch of backgrounds. This worked especially well at the hotel. Ran by Fraulein Schneider (‘Shake ‘N’ Vac’ lady Jenny Logan, no less), we follow the lives of her tenants as well as her blossoming relationship with Jewish shopkeeper Herr Schultz (Matt Zimmerman). Their relationship convinces as a couple caught in the middle of the rising power of the Nazis.

A central character to this shift is Ernst Ludwig, played by the sinister yet likeable Karl Moffatt (The Entertainer). Suanne Braun is also very funny as long-term hotel guest Fraulein Kost (Mamma Mia).

Tomorrow Belongs to Me, sang by a Hitler Youth character brings Act I I to a close on a poignant note and sets Act II up with a darker edge, as communities are divided, friendships are questioned and the ‘wrong’ sort of relationships are discouraged. Art represents life, as the cabaret promotes the Nazi’s message until the club itself becomes a victim of the New IOrder.

Bark’s emotional performance of the show's signature tune captures the reluctance of Berlin’s decadent theatres to get involved in the momentous changes happening in Germany. Bringing this impressively written piece of theatre to a shocking close the final scene echoes the outcome of these choices.

The Empire is a great place to watch a show and Cabaret will continue to be among the most popular to reach the stage. Although this production didn’t always gel, it didn’t disappoint and will successfully introduce a new audience to this classic musical. 7/10

Cabaret, Liverpool Empire, until Saturday Sept 28

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10 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Tomorrow belongs to someone elseSeptember 23rd 2008.

Must have missed the Everyman one. The Playhouse version was many years ago, even as far back as 1980.Angus, get a grip on yourself!!

Gaberdine AngusSeptember 23rd 2008.


AnonymousSeptember 23rd 2008.

Why do you want them enlarging, Gaberdine, old man?

Tomorrow belongs to someone elseSeptember 23rd 2008.

Must have missed the Everyman one. The Playhouse version was many years ago, even as far back as 1980.Angus, get a grip on yourself!!

stagedoorjohnnySeptember 23rd 2008.

A pleasant evenings entertainment b ut certainly lacking in some areas. The piece doesn't know whethee it wants to be a Musical Theatre show (which it is) or a Political comment (which it also is but not done too well in this instance. Though inmpressed by the third placed I'd do Anything contestant - he singing was superb - she needs to explore characterisation and intonation. WEayne as Wayne. Isae him in 1983 and he's become one of the Uk's stalwarts of the Theatre - along with Biggins, Ball and others. The two major disappointmwnts were Waynes stepping out of character early in the second half for his dance routine that wasn'tHowever, my main criticism was the tacky way the dirtector and cast hnadled the close of the show.I felt it was absolutely right and proper to highlight the atrocities of WW2 in such a way (and I won't spoil it for those who are yet to see the show) with the gut wrenching imagary... incrediblt moving and fitting for piece which has a very strong message...But then to do a panto-style walkdown for the curtain call was a bloody insult not only to us the audience but to the millios who never saw the end of the war!

WappingSeptember 23rd 2008.

I suspect Angus probably has got a firm grip on himself.

not so bowles overSeptember 23rd 2008.

went to watch the show last night.something lacking, can't say i loved or hated it but i didnt walk out so that says something.felt embarrassed for the people who tried to start a standing ovation,most people stayed steadfastly glued to their seats. think mr angus may enjoy the tits and arse on display.

Laura-Jane HallSeptember 23rd 2008.

i went last night and it was bloody brilliant i just adore Wayne Sleep so tongue in cheek....!

Tomorrow belongs to someone elseSeptember 23rd 2008.

Wasn't it the Playhouse rather than the Everyman that did Cabaret many years ago. Leslie Lawton, the then artistic director, cast himself in the film's Joel Gray role as the Kit Kat club's MC. The local thesps had their claws out fom him for a long time after that.Excuse the weary sigh, but while it's right in theatrical terms to say Joe Masteroff wrote the book for Cabaret, the 'book' (or books) as a non-luvvy would understand it were Christopher Isherwood's Mr Norris Changes Trains and Goodbye to Berlin, metamorphosed by John van Druten into the play I am a Camera before becoming the Kander-Ebbs musical Cabaret.

Bowles keep swingingSeptember 23rd 2008.

Maybe it was Wayne Sleep who couldn't forget Nancy?

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